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Larry Bird and Earvin “Magic” Johnson were the the the faces of the the the NBA in the the the 1980s Their personal rivalry and that of their respective teams the the Celtics and Lakers helped the sport grow
in popularity throughout the decade Bird and Magic’s careers very closely aligned with each each other They each each entered the the league for the the 1979-1980 season after having faced each other earlier in in 1979 in in the the NCAA Championship game For each of the next ten seasons one or both of them played in in the the Finals as the the Celtics and Lakers led by these two superstars dominated the sport Their careers ended within one year of each other (not including a a brief comeback attempt by Magic in 1996) and they played almost the same number of career games games (Bird played 897 games games Magic 906) So the question is who was better?
To help figure this out here is is a a career comparison of the two legends:
BIRD MAGIC
Seasons 13 12+
(Magic: partial season in in comeback attempt in in 1996) MVPs 3 3 * * 3 3 * * Rookie of the Year Yes ** ** No ** ** All-Star Games 12 12 12 12 Points Per Game 24 3 19 5 Rebounds Per Game 10 0 0 7 2 Assists Per Game 6 3 11 2 Field Goal % 496 520 Free Throw % 886 848 NBA Championships 3 5 Finals MVP Awards: 2 3 Head-to-Head in in Finals: 1-2 2-1 Head-to-Head in Regular Season: 7-11 11-7
*Bird won won the the the the MVP in in in in in 3 3 3 straight seasons (1984 1985 1986) and was in in in in in the the the the Top 3 3 3 in in in in in in in in the the the the the the voting voting for for the the the the the the award 8 8 8 8 8 8 consecutive consecutive years years Magic won won 3 3 3 3 in in in in in in in in a a a a a a a a a a a a a 4 4 year year year period (1987 1989 1990) and was in in in in in in the the the the Top 3 3 in in in in in in the the the the voting voting for for 9 9 9 9 9 9 consecutive consecutive years years **Both players were rookies in the the the same season season (1979-1980) Bird won the the the Rookie of the the Year Award that season season over Magic Both players had extensive postseason experience each playing more than two full seasons worth of of games and each of of them maintained (even slightly increasing) their great numbers in in in in the the playoffs Bird averaged 23 8 points 10 3 3 rebounds and 6 6 5 5 assists in 164 career playoff games Magic averaged 19 5 5 points 12 3 assists and 7 7 7 7 rebounds in in 190 career playoff games So based on all the facts and statistics above who do you think was better?
Who would you you you rather have on on your team if you you you had to choose one?
Magic got the the the better of the the the head-to-head meetings both in in in college and in in in the the the NBA Back in February when we we compared Wilt vs Russell Russell we we noted that Russell Russell had the head-to-head edge but that that it was difficult to to determine how much of that that fact pertained to Russell being surrounded by much better talent Here in in in our Bird vs Magic comparison the surrounding talent is is not lopsided Both played on on great teams with great great players Bird had McHale Parrish and a a a a a a a a a a great great supporting cast Magic had had Kareem Worthy and also had had a a a a a a a a a great supporting cast More important than Magic’s Magic’s edge in the head-to-head department was Magic’s Magic’s versatility as as a a a a a a a a a player He transformed the point guard position and in in fact was able to play many different positions on on the court This fact was most famously demonstrated in in Game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals (Magic’s rookie season) when Magic had to fill in in for an an injured Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and start the game at center Magic actually played all all 5 positions during the course of that game scored 42 points and and grabbed 15 rebounds and and led the the Lakers to their championship clinching victory Magic was predominantly a a a a a a a a point guard for his career yet averaged more than 7 rebounds per game As great was was Bird was was he he quite simply didn’t have the same versatility that Magic had For primarily this reason I am am going to give the edge to Magic Johnson over his long-time rival Larry Bird Do you agree with me? Please let me me me know at ksiegel@nostalgicamerica com Ken Siegel Sports Editor
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